Being raised from the bottom of the pile

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In my experience, growing up as the youngest of three girls is like being the underdog. Every day of your damn life. And I don't mean in a "lets make a movie about this wonderful story, her eventual success is so inspiring" kind of way, I mean in the "depressing runt of the litter that gets stepped on" way. Have you ever watched a litter of puppies? You know how they step all over each other without any care for personal space or even safety? Well it was like that. Except its cute when puppies do it because their cheeks look so sweet all smushed.

Don't get me wrong, being the youngest comes with a heap of benefits; I got to spend a lot of time with my mother that my sisters didn't, I got to have the house to myself when they went to University, and of course, for a few years at least, I got to enjoy being the cutest kid in the family. Still, I'm not sure that makes up for the damage my sisters did to my fragile psyche during my formative years. But more on that later.

Our house only had three bedrooms, and my father, being one of eight siblings, didn't have much sympathy for us when we complained about the tight space. This meant that my sister Megan and I shared a room. For some crazy reason (here I'm going to act like I don't understand what a nightmare child I was) I won the design power for our childhood room, and because I was four at the time, I chose pastel purple walls and floral bedding with unicorns for our shared bedroom. Megan had the top bunk, I had the bottom, reflecting not only the age difference between us but also clarifying the power dynamic. 

Being older definitely meant being wiser and Megan never let me forget that. I was incredibly trusting as a child, and it took me years, and I mean YEARS to correct the list of false beliefs I'd developed as a child. No, I didn't drink goats milk as a child, my lazy sister filled my milky bottle with tap water when I cried and called it goat. No, my sister did not go to school with the kid from the popular car commercials, and NO, lipstick really does not belong rubbed into your cheeks. Oh, and don't give your sister the benift of the doubt and wedge your prized music box in the door in an effort to get in when she's locking you out. She will crush it.

Still not convinced? Try this anecdote on for size:

One day, when I was about four years old, I was outside swinging on our swingset when I heard a voice call out to me. 

"Victoriaaaaa"

"Yes?" I looked around, confused and seeing no one.

"This is your conscience speaking," continued the omnipresent speaker.

Now, being four, this shit was way over my head. Thankfully, the voice was ready to explain exactly what was going on, teaching me that you conscience is a voice that tells you what you should do. This conversation continued for about ten minutes as my conscience made plenty of helpful suggestions about how to be nice to my sisters and be a good girl.

My mother had been washing dishes at the kitchen sink, watching me swing away happily and noticed that I was talking to someone. That's when she busted Megan and Andrea, who had been lying on their stomachs yelling out the open second-floor picture window.

Still, I continued to trust them, fall for their tricks, and more than once got into our clothes hamper just to have Megan sit on top, effectively trapping me in the dark metal bin. Some people might find that kind of naive trust "love", I call it just plain sad. She would bait me, whispering terrible things until I hollered back at the top of my lungs.

"VICTORIA!" my father would boom from the next room.

"It's not my fault dad, its Megan!," I would protest.

But his response was always the same- "then why are you the only one we hear?".

Solid point. I've got to hand it to her, she was a pretty smart kid.

With the age difference between my sisters, they often found they would rather play with each other than play with me. They once even converted my bedroom closet into a clubhouse that I was forbidden to enter. This made dressing challenging to say the least.

As a result I spent countless hours playing with my Barbies in their "apartment" (my emptied bookshelf, which strangely had a stable in the bottom floor). For many years I didn't have a Ken doll, and I would narrate in my head rather than out loud. I wonder if my parents were ever concerned watching me hold my Barbie in silence while she faced absolutely nothing. I learned to look inwards for the companionship and entertainment I needed. I've always had a very active imagination and it kept me company when I was small.

If anyone did decide to play with me it was usually Megan, and she was always the boss. She loved to play school, which really meant I had to sit in a desk and listen to her boss me around all afternoon. Let me tell you, fake homework isn't any more fun than real homework. My favourite was when she would pretend to be my dog (what can I say, we really wanted a pet) and I could walk her on a leash and she would eat bologna and lucky charms from her food dish on the ground. Ah, to be young again.

When we were little I wanted nothing more than to be like Megan. She was one of the only older kids I knew, and so by default she was my role model. She was pretty and popular, and to me she seemed to exude confidence.  I used to beg her to tell me about her life, to talk to me about boys, to give me a glimpse of that private world I was so impatiently waiting to be a part of. When she was feeling generous, she would keep me up late at night whispering the details of recess drama, being relatively popular, and even kissing boys. I listened eagerly and when she would finish, I would excitedly launch in to a story about my own life, desperate to catch her attention and for her to think I was interesting too. That was when she would curtly inform me that the conversation was over, roll over and fall asleep. Its not 100% clear to me when I developed such a people-pleasing complex, but I have a feeling a therapist might trace it back to memories like this.

 Unfortunately it wasn't until my sister had moved away for university that I began to understand what it must have been like to have her kid sister, three years her junior, in her personal space at all times. As I experienced the milestones that make highschool both wonderful and hellish, I grasped how hard it must have been to go through that with your little sister sleeping two feet away. By that time she'd dealt countless blows to my self esteem, and it took years to get to know each other again in a new way, on more even footing as two young adults.

My eldest sister, Andrea, was spared a lot of this drama, but only because she spent most of her adolescence sequestered in her room, waiting for highschool to end. I imagine there was a lot more going on between her and Megan during their childhood that I could not understand or that I was completely oblivious to. Tension reached an all time high when Megan began attending highschool with Andrea. Andrea was a drama geek and struggling to be herself in a school where is seemed everyone was the same. It sure didn't help when Megan arrived and instantly made friends and had boys flocking to her.

Once again, I was hopelessly curious about the tense dynamic that arose from whatever happened while they were out of the house from 8:30 am to 4 pm, but I was always left out of the loop. I do remember when Andrea was sixteen, Megan stole her diary when she was away and read it in its entirety. I never learned the contents of what she read that day, but I'm sure it was pretty interesting, as Andrea was just beginning her first relationship. When Andrea found out what had happened, she sobbed on the kitchen floor for hours. This level of hightened emotion was commonplace in our household, as we fought incessantly during our childhood, shaking the entire house with our booming voices and slamming doors. This behaviour ceased promptly, of course, when we heard the familiar sound of our parents cars pulling into our driveway.

In fact, the feuds we waged were so furious that members of our own family later told me that they had doubted we would ever even speak after moving out of our parents' house. Spolier alert: this part of the story has a happy ending.

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